Do You Have What It Takes to Run an Etsy Shop?

Posted by on Mar 20, 2012

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Mauricio Jordan De Souza Coelho / Dreamstime


Starting an online Etsy business is a tucked-away dream many crafters save for rainy days or particularly long staff meetings, but rarely does the "What if..." fantasy go beyond a wandering pondering. Allison Strine, co-author of "Starting an Etsy Business for Dummies" and owner of her own super-selling Etsy shop LadyBird, thinks differently. Her concrete advice can help transform your visions of crafty entrepreneurship into an exciting (and very real) possibility. 

Why online craft or vintage selling, what's the draw? 

The draw is that there’s a whole world out there! I get a huge kick out of selling something to a woman in South Africa or Norway. There’s a sense of being part of a bigger community on Etsy. We’re all in the same boat, trying to bring a smile to the faces of people all over with our little handcrafted and vintage items. Plus, it’s just plain awesome to know that someone likes my work enough to spend money on it!  

What personality type or background is best suited to Etsy selling? 

You’ve got to have a tough skin. Setting up shop is like inviting a whole bunch of strangers over for coffee. They’re going to look at the snacks you’re offering, maybe searching for the one with nuts. Some will be thrilled that you’ve got pistachios while others are going hate the coffee and walk right out the door. That’s when you have to remember that you do make great coffee—you just can’t take it personally if they might be tea drinkers!
Also, it also doesn’t hurt to be active in social media. You can do some great networking with a Facebook page or a Twitter account as well as hanging around cool websites like CraftFoxes! 

What mistakes do newbie sellers frequently make? Any tips for overcoming? 

Photos really do sell the items as well as creating a cohesive look for your shop. If your pics are bland, blah, boring or ugly, it doesn’t matter how wonderful your work is—ain’t no one gonna buy it! For example, I’ve had my eye on some earrings from an artist’s personal website. They’re gorgeous, but when I link to her Etsy shop, the earrings look so bad that I can’t make myself buy them.

What do you recommend for staying committed to online Etsy selling? 

Etsy can be an absolute gold mine for an online seller. They’ve already gone through a lot of growing pains, so mostly everything works well, and there are some really great features available to help both the shopper and the seller. For instance, the search feature has improved greatly over the past year, and with proper use of tagging, networking and promotions you can really increase your item’s chance of visibility.  

What are the easiest, 'low-effortest' ways to market a shop? 

I think the best thing you could do for yourself, even before opening shop, is to read as much as possible about marketing. Marketing on Etsy, marketing handmade stuff, marketing for artists, low-budget marketing, duct tape marketing—all that info is available for the searching.

Any favorite Etsy sellers that have both an awesome business model as well as great products? 

Oooh, this is a fun question to answer! Judging by the thousand PAGES of shops I have Favorited, you’d think it would be hard to come up with just a few. But, for funny stuff with a quirky sentiment, check out The Mincing Mockingbird. I love the whimsy of Sara Pulver’s paintings at 3crows. I bought the cutest little earrings from Mark Poulin of marmar. My only advice is don’t search for ‘handmade lollipops!’

Allison Strine is the co-author of "Starting an Etsy Business for Dummies," published by For Dummies.

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